“What the 80’s taught me about PR”

“What the 80’s taught me about PR”

I spent the start of my career, the 80s, working in advertising, account handling campaigns for brands such as Birds Eye, Max Factor and Texaco.  It was a time of creative brilliance and financial excess.  A time when ad agencies acquired PR businesses and direct marketing companies and called themselves ‘integrated’.

Integrated?  I’ll let you into a secret. In reality, the ad people didn’t speak to the DM people because they made all the money; the DM people didn’t speak to the PR people because they were fluffy and lacked accountability and the PR people didn’t speak to anyone who wasn’t ‘Someone’.

How times have changed!

Then, PR was all smoke and mirrors and little black books of contacts, rather than delivering tangible results.

I saw an opportunity to create an accountable PR offering which delivered against outcomes tightly aligned to the business vision.  Railing against the extravagance of consumer marketing, I decided b2b was the way forward.

Just before my 30th birthday, full of bravado and oblivious to the magnitude of things I didn’t know, I boldly created my first public relations company. Against a backdrop of 80’s excess, I defined our guiding principles: accountable, effective, evocative.

For reasons I now can’t remember, my first customer was a security business, nothing so sexy as cybersecurity (it didn’t exist!), we are talking kit; PIRS, control panels, cables and the likes, but it didn’t matter.  The point was I was working directly with the European MD.  An engineer, with a vision, a P&L to deliver and a set of clearly defined objectives.  Working with him was exciting and rewarding because every day, week, month we would hear directly how the business was performing, where the problems were and we’d debate the best actions we could take to help him do what he needed to do.  We worked in tight collaboration and I loved it!

That client relationship was the start of my love affair with tech PR. I love delivering. I love brainstorming. I love finding solutions and I love delivering against them.  There is nothing more rewarding than working with clever, engaging people, and I’m privileged to have worked with quite a few over the course of my career.

MY LITTLE BUSINESS GREW

We attracted the technical companies who delivered lighting and sound to West End musicals and concerts, as well as major festivals.  I took briefs while sitting with lighting designers and sound technicians in the deserted stalls of theatres before or between rehearsals.

And then, eLearning was born and that became a focus for us too!  Different companies with similar problems, different teams with similar remarkable, focussed, smart people at their helm.  The objective was always growth, expressed in a variety of ways and with varying degrees of sophistication.

The effect of their differing requirements was that we developed services which we could deploy as required; communication audits, audience research, messaging, media training, as well as media relations, content creation and campaign delivery.

QUALITY CONTENT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CRITICAL ELEMENT

For us, being able to write quality material that an editor can just run, without editing, was a key part of our offer. As the digital revolution unfolded, the quality of what was at the end of the link became vital.  Our focus on technical excellence, processes and service quality resulted in us winning Scientific Atlanta, a brand later absorbed by Cisco, who we worked with for eight years.

By this point, the feedback we started to get regularly from clients was that working with us delivered certainty; we do the job we say we’re going to do: we make our clients look amazing by delivering phenomenal results, consistently.

Our clients, almost exclusively engineers, scientists and technologists, prefer order, logic and structure.  So, our processes and reporting procedures have a forensic like attention to detail.

I’ve learnt through experience that in the vast majority of cases, engineers prefer not to write.  In fact, in most cases they’re not very good at it and they are smart enough to admit their talents lie elsewhere.  They also have little time or interest to invest in non-core activities – and marketing to a scientist is most definitely non-core.

So, we do what we do best, we simplified.

We developed an efficient process for abstracting intelligence and opinion from them fast; from this we can craft material that will make their organisations, ideas and capabilities visible, valued and understood.

AND WHAT OF THE FUTURE?

Having spent the last two years establishing my second business, Emmett & Churchman PR, I am excited for the future. The skills I learnt as an entrepreneur before that word became fashionable remain:

Our focus is on tech in all its forms.

* Productivity is critical.

* Delivering quality results with impeccable service is non-negotiable.

* Making our clients look amazing by delivering phenomenal results is what we do.

And, like those halcyon days back in the 80’s we will seek out partnerships, mergers and acquisitions. But, only those that allow us to deliver the outcomes our clients desire.

Because in PR it’s not about a little black book (it never has been), it’s about you, our clients.  If you’re looking to be visible, valued and recognised as the very best option in your market, call us.  You’re in safe hands.  And fear not.  There’s only a speck of that youthful arrogance remaining. It’s been replaced by calm confidence and absolute certainty that our approach works because we keep on delivering exceptional results.

Interested in working with us? Email lorraine@ec-pr.com.

Finding the right PR Partner for you

Finding the right PR Partner for you

What should you be looking for in B2B PR company?

When outsourcing your PR activity, you need to find a partner you believe can help you achieve your goals, who you trust with your confidences, who you will enjoy working with and from whom you will acquire valuable knowledge. Oh and the chemistry needs to feel right too.

With this in mind here are some questions worth asking before signing on the dotted line.

1) What does success look like?

You need to share a vision of what you are trying to achieve with the help of your agency. Take the time to envision your desired results and create targets against which you can measure and celebrate success.

2) Who will be your day to day contact?

Know who you will be working with, meet them before you sign up and start to feel comfortable with your brand in their hands. There’s nothing worse than appointing an agency and finding you’re working with the office junior.

3) Who will be liaising with the press on your behalf?

It is always important to familiarise yourself with who will be communicating with the press as they are an ambassador for you, your values and your business.

4) Who will be drafting press material for you?

What are their capabilities, expertise and experience? Have a look at examples of their work – not just press coverage but the material they sent to the press in the first place and ask what the turnaround times to produce it were.

5) What are the campaigns KPI’s?

Quantifiable milestones help to determine whether you are succeeding or not and enable you to identify whether something needs reinforcing, adjusting or aborting. Ask if you can speak to the agency’s clients about their experiences in how targets were set and managed.

6) How will progress be reported?

Regular progress reports are an essential to keep track of campaign activities, monitor progress against the KPIs and to identify and address any emerging challenges to keep the delivery of the project on track. Most agencies will provide a ‘end of’ report but will this come with recommendations on how to build on successes or use insights to implement changes where necessary.

7) What is the problem-resolution process?

Hope for the best and plan for the worst. You need to have a procedure in place to address issues and challenges. It’s better to have a process rather than an assumption of how things will work and, if it’s not in your contract, for this to be documented as a point of reference.

Client-agency relationships rarely celebrate a third anniversary, a shocking statistic which is indicative of how hard it is to find the right PR Partner. This is probably because the matchmaking process is not given the right consideration. We hope answering these seven questions will help you find your ‘forever’ agency!

This article originally appeared in August 2016

 

Brand Storytelling: How human is your PR?

Brand Storytelling: How human is your PR?

This may seen like an odd question but…

How “HUMAN” is your brand?

Your business is made up of humans all the way through the supply chain. Yet when it comes to your brand, sometimes the human element is lost. No more so than when the subject matter is technically complex.

In PR, it’s easy to get caught up in why the widgets are so great, how they’re different etc. But people don’t remember widgets. They remember how they feel. As Simon Sinek says in his TEDx talk, focus on the why first.

Storytelling humanises brands. Out with the cold, informal, impersonal corporate language and in with the ‘real’; the emotional connection. Storytelling is built into us, we’re hardwired to remember stories, and feel compelled to share them.

“ Stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts”*

Incorporating stories into your PR helps you distinguish your brand from your competitors. To be visible, valued and understood.

We recently asked 3 Cybersecurity editors their views on PRs, and asked what are the most common mistakes people make when approaching editors and Tony Morbin, Editor-in-Chief of SC Magazine gave a valuable heads-up:

“A big mistake is not putting the most important/interesting thing at the front. E.g. ‘Everyone at Natwest has had £100 stolen from them’, rather than, ‘New research has been published by leading global cyber security company LockupmyData, conducted by the highly regarded Whatsitallabout research company as a result of face to face interviews with 6,000 cyber security professionals last year. The findings show that Lockupmydata is rated reliable by 49 percent of respondents’.”

There are several ways you can incorporate brand storytelling into PR. 

Here are a few examples of storytelling best practice:

A LOOK INSIDE YOUR COMPANY 

We have to remember that people are curious. Recently, Salesforce opened their new tower in San Francisco. Rather than a dull release, they gave their audience a behind the scenes look into their business showcasing how their new offices incorporated their brand identity and that they’re not just a tech company. Not only that, they display their eco-friendly credentials detailing their on-site water recycling facility.

THE FOUNDING REASON YOUR COMPANY CAME TO BE

Every business has a story. Warby Parker, a US eyewear retailer was founded to tackle the problem of expensive eyewear after one of its student founders lost his glasses on a backpacking trip and couldn’t afford to replace them. Warby Parker also partners with not-for-profit organisations to distribute a pair of glasses to someone in need for each pair they sell. So, the original brand story was already engaging but the fact the company helps those less fortunate continues to fuel their story, see how they’re now helping students in the City of New York.

HOW YOU HELP YOUR CUSTOMERS 

Client testimonials & customer references give your brand credibility. They also create powerful stories of the impact of your technology. Most clients aren’t early adopters so want the confidence that they’re not just simply your guinea pigs, that your solution is tried and tested. Leverage those client relationships with your early adopters and showcase them, like Splunk.  Make your customer the hero in your story.

Storytelling is for EVERY brand…

There will always be a nugget to create a story around, even if it’s not immediately apparent. Whether it’s the reason the brand was started, the way a product is produced. There is always a story worth telling. Let us help you find your story and bring your PR to life.

* Source: Jennifer Aaker, Social Psychologist, Professor of Marketing at Stanford University Graduate School of Business

This blog was first published on LinkedIn.

B2B PR – 9 Questions Every Marketing Manager Should Ask Before Hiring A PR Agency

B2B PR – 9 Questions Every Marketing Manager Should Ask Before Hiring A PR Agency

Hiring a PR agency? 9 questions every marketing manager should ask first

Before you sign a contract with any PR agency we highly recommend that you ask these nine questions first.  By asking the right questions upfront you are more likely to hire the right PR agency for your business, your relationship will last longer, and it will be a lot more rewarding. Asking these questions can help you evaluate whether you’re a good fit for each other.  If they can answer them to your satisfaction, snap them up!

1. How are we going to measure success?

Your agency should be keen to know what success looks like and be interested in your business – therefore, they should be asking lots of questions.  Understanding what success looks like is critical as you need to demonstrate the return on your investment.

Clear objectives and goals should be set for every campaign and you should be clear on how you’re going to measure success, but also what stretch goals you have.  Let’s say for example you want coverage, all coverage is not equal, so be clear on whether you want opinion pieces, editorial or just simply, company mentions, and in which publications.

2. Who is going to manage our account?

Often when you meet large PR agencies, they’ll wheel out their most impressive Account Directors, and perhaps even their CEO, depending on the size of your account.  You’ll receive a fancy pitch and feel like a million dollars.  But then…when you actually start working together, those people are nowhere to be seen, you get a junior managing the day to day business, and every call with your Account Director costs.  You may then regret your decision.

So, always ask these types of questions to understand who will be managing your account, and make sure you meet them all before you decide.

  • How many people will be working on my account?
  • What is the experience of the account team?
  • When will they be available to me?
  • Who will I be spending the most time with?
  • Who will be executing the work?

Now, size isn’t everything, in fact with a smaller account team you’ll be able to develop a much closer relationship with mutual understanding. The agency will get to know how you like to work best, and vice versa. That’s why the people who turn up when we pitch are the people you will be spending most of your time with! Find out more about our people here.

3. What is your speciality?

The purpose of this question is to establish the relevant experience of the PR agency to your specific industry or requirements.

How connected are they? You want to be certain that when you hire the agency they already have established relationships with the key journalists and editors in your specific sector. If they do, it means they clearly have experience of working with them, and know what specific content publications will and won’t accept. They will have intimate knowledge of the journalists likes and dislikes, and will be able to successfully pitch story ideas first time, every time.

Ultimately, the more specialised and experienced the agency is in your sector, the more successful they will be in delivering phenomenal results for your brand.

4. What do you need to know about my business before you can get started?

Here’s the thing. Your PR agency aren’t telepathic. Yes, you can choose an agency with specialised knowledge in your industry, but remember they need to get to know you, your business and your people. So, ask them what they need to know to get started.

Firstly, you’ll need to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that you can confidently share your company secrets – perhaps new product releases, changes of senior management or a merger/acquisition. If you want your PR agency to be proactive, you need to give them as much information as you would any new employee. This will take time. So, be prepared to answer lots of questions, and be prepared to be challenged. Great PR agencies challenge the status quo.

The investment you make in PR is not just financial, it requires your time to brief the PR agency and engage in planning and strategy sessions so that they can hit the ground running and the relationship is successful from the outset. This is why we have a three pronged approach to marketing, starting with research and planning.

5. Where do we fall in your client roster?

Knowing where you stand in terms of agency spend and production requirements compared to other clients is critical.

Do you want to be the top dog and be their most important client? Perhaps you do, perhaps you don’t.

What’s critical to understand is how important you are to the agency.  If you’re their smallest client, the reality is that you’ll probably get the most junior account team.  Remember, you want to ensure that the PR agency has time for your business. So, think carefully about the type of agency you want to work with, and where your business will fall into their priority list.

Hopefully, before you’ve even started the agency selection process, you’ve checked out their website for their client roster, and you’ve researched what’s happening in the news with their clients so you have a good understanding of their capability already. We’ve made it super easy for you to find our client roster, check out our case studies here.

6. Who are your references?

The hiring process is like hiring an employee. You wouldn’t hire anyone without asking for references. So, ask for them and make the time to call or email those references.  Also, ask for a reference of a client that no longer works with the PR agency.  You need to find out why they don’t work together anymore. Remember, you want to choose an agency with a proven track record of success and many other satisfied past clients. Also ask the questions that are important to you.

7. How often will I hear from you?

This may sound like a daft question. It’s not. You need to understand how the PR agency manages client communication and collaboration.

The reason is you want 90% of your budget being spent on real work, not project management or administration.  Not only that, as editorial placements can take months, you want to know what exactly your agency is working on.

What should you expect?

It’s normal to hear from your agency at least once a week, with a monthly report on placements secured and plans for the following month.  Not only that, do expect to hear from your agency when they’ve secured a new opportunity, or they’ve developed an innovative idea to move your brand forward. Not only that, you need to ensure that you’re still on track for success.

8. How much budget do I need to allocate to achieve my goals?

If you’ve never added PR to your marketing mix, we highly recommend starting with a six-month pilot project. This will ensure that your new PR agency can gain momentum and measure ROI effectively. Our experience is that a PR campaign needs to run for at least six months to gain any traction.

If you already have an existing PR budget, but you’re not happy with the results, then it’s a different conversation.  Let’s be honest, if you were happy with your PR results, you wouldn’t be reading this!  In this scenario we recommend full disclosure, be clear during the agency recruitment process your budget and more importantly, your expectations of what success looks like. Then, expect the PR agency to deliver a pitch and proposal based on your budget. If you want us to pitch our services, click here.

9. What if it all goes wrong?

Negative news happens. Everyone makes mistakes. A crisis is usually rooted in an act of god (rare); deliberate criminal act (uncommon); or human error (most usual) and has resulted in danger or financial damage to third parties and your brand.

How the crisis is handled will directly impact your customers, staff and bottom line.  You want an agency to be confident in crisis management so, ask for examples of what they’ve done and for whom.  They should be telling you how they can set up an emergency reactive press office and the strategies they would deploy to prevent, mitigate and manage negative news, should it occur.

If you’re facing a crisis, you need your PR agency to support you. Ask us how we’ve helped clients in these situations and what we could do for you.

Conclusion:

We hope the tips above help you as you decide which B2B PR agency to work with. Ultimately, you must:

  • feel comfortable that you’re in safe hands
  • like the team that’ll be representing you
  • feel confident that they’ll work with you to achieve the positive coverage you deserve

If you want our help to make your remarkable brand visible, valued and understood contact us here.  We love pitching our services to people like you.

B2B PR – There’s No Such Thing As Bad PR. Codswallop.

B2B PR – There’s No Such Thing As Bad PR. Codswallop.

Now there’s a phrase I hear all the time, particularly when out socialising and I’m asked the obligatory “so what do you do?”. That’s when I hear the phrase “well, there’s no such thing as bad PR”. Frankly, that’s codswallop.  There is bad PR. Let me talk you through some examples.

Firstly, let’s get really clear here. Just because you don’t have a PR budget, or a PR/marketing manager looking after your PR, doesn’t mean you don’t have PR. Every business has PR – it’s simply a case of whether it’s being managed or not. Why? Your reputation is active, it moves, it changes.

Imagine your company reputation is like a yacht on an ocean. The sails are up and it’s being caught in the wind. You may think you’ve anchored it in place, but the elements have a mind of their own and your yacht is drifting.  Without someone navigating, your yacht is at the mercy of the weather. And before you know it a great big unpredicted wave could cause your yacht to crash. So if you’re being inactive with your PR I challenge you to consider who’s navigating your company reputation? Are you in charge, or are unknown forces in control? We believe that all business leaders need a media profile.

Secondly, there’s been a major trend in reactive PR. You’ve probably seen examples of it without knowing that’s what it is specifically, but you know how it makes you feel. It just feels wrong. It doesn’t make sense, and there’s little connection. Its where we see a company respond to a news story but don’t say anything of substance. They’re simply jumping on the efforts of others and riding on their coat tails while saying nothing of importance. No don’t even get me started on vanity PR, which also falls into this category, where arrogance or self-importance drives the communication rather than the needs of the business.

Finally, what about PR that is pushed out without purpose, measurement or focus, “proactive” PR.  It’s like dropping a stone in the middle of the Atlantic and expecting the ripples to hit Cornwall.  For me, this is the worst kind of PR. It’s an insult to your media contacts, your audience and damages your professional standing. It demonstrates a lack of thought, strategy and standards. Not only that it reflects poorly on your brand and is simply a waste of money. Poor proactive PR is quite possibly the worst type of PR there is – it’s being wilfully negligent of your reputation.

That’s why when I’m asked what I “do for a living” I don’t say I’m in PR. I say I’m a communications specialist. Because I don’t want to be associated with bad PR. Our communications are accountable, effective and provocative.  We create compelling ideas. We care deeply. We care what our clients say. We care how their audiences respond. And we always evaluate the impact.

If you want to engage a PR company but down know where to start here are 7 questions you should ask a PR company before you hire them.  To find out more about Emmett & Churchman click here.

B2B PR – In PR opinions matter, what’s yours?

B2B PR – In PR opinions matter, what’s yours?

Here at EC-PR our guiding principle is to help you communicate with conviction. We want you to share those firmly held beliefs or opinions courageously, even in the face of contrary opinion.

But how do you do that? Communicating with conviction is about saying something because: you believe it to be true, you care about how you express your opinions and you want to make a difference, in equal measures.

Tell the truth 80% of the time

Usually, we’re told to tell the truth all of the time but let’s get real here, you can’t always. And, that’s not because you actively want to be dishonest, but because you don’t always have all of the facts.  So, we recommend that you are 100% truthful, but recognise that in reality, you can only do that 80% of the time.  This is because for 80% of the time you will be in command of all the facts.  You will be in a position to talk about what you have achieved together with the ‘how and why’ it is important to your community.  80% of the time you have no excuse for being dull and boring and, should therefore be inspiring, provocative and engaging.  If you can’t think of something interesting to say – engage someone who can because without a shadow of a doubt there isn’t a business without a story – businesses don’t survive without a kernel of an idea.  When they forget or fail to evolve that idea, that’s when they start to falter.

So, what about that remaining 20%? In an unfolding crisis you’re not in command of all of the facts or, in the case of business closures or redundancies, the facts are uncomfortable to talk about.  In either scenario, your focus must be on what you do know and what can be done to help achieve the best outcome and why.   Your focus will not be on scratching at the scab of corporate incompetence (your own or someone else’s) or the fear and indignity experienced by those being most hurt by the crisis. Therefore, it’s important to remain honest and truthful to your core values, but recognise that 100% transparency isn’t possible in evolving situations. You have to do the best you can with the information you have in the situation you’re in.

Saint or Spinner

The PR industry is renowned for ‘spin’ which implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive and highly manipulative tactics to alter the facts and change opinion.  I find the word ‘spin’ repugnant.  The implicit absence of truth and decency not only suggests a lack of respect for the people you want to engage with, but denigrates their intelligence. People are smarter than they’re often given credit for. So, let’s cut the spin.

Language is powerful, both verbal and non-verbal. Your choice of adjectives can turn someone on or off. Your body language can be offensive or not engaging simply because your smile doesn’t quite reach your eyes or appears to have turned into a sneer.

This is where professional communicators, people like us, can help – we take the facts and create pieces of communication which accurately reflect the intelligence, passion and spirit of what you are trying to achieve. Not only that, we’ll show you how to engage confidently with the media.  Let us help you express your opinion so that it is credible and convincing, no spin required.

People are impressed by BIG ideas

It’s human nature that we want to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves – to be involved in something that we couldn’t possibly hope to achieve on our own.  Think about sport, religion, politics. They offer a variety of clearly defined propositions based on a belief, behaviour and culture set.  Each attracts a tribe. In every tribe there are leaders, there are participators, and perhaps the most important of all followers, those who advocate and support on behalf of the tribe. The number of followers determines the financial success of the tribe – so, inspiring and nurturing them is critical to success. Manchester City Football Club wouldn’t have a £108m transfer budget if it they didn’t have raving fans.  It’s exactly the same in business.  Your proposition, beliefs, and, most importantly, purpose need to be so clear that like-minded people gravitate towards it like a magnate and encourage their network to do likewise. Without this you cannot expect to achieve success nor can you expect your communication to be compelling in any consistent kind of way.

So let’s focus on the truth, ditch the spin and build a tribe of raving fans. Let’s put your business in the limelight for the right reasons. We can help your team communicate with conviction so your business can soar.